The AFC South has been the butt of many jokes, yet this division sent four teams to the playoffs in the past two seasons. In 2017, the Jacksonville Jaguars turned heads, then it was the Indianapolis Colts’ turn in 2018. Which team will build through free agency and become a postseason contender this year?
Free Agents: The Houston Texans still have a tough decision to make regarding DE Jadeveon Clowney. Last week, the club applied the franchise tag to the pass rusher, meaning he is due between $15-17 million this season. If Houston doesn’t like that price tag, the team is free to negotiate a long-term deal with Clowney. Or perhaps they can explore trade options for the former first-overall draft pick. Rumors circulated over the weekend that many teams would be interested in making a deal for Clowney. The 26-year-old totaled 18.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
Possible Targets: Houston made a big splash by acquiring former Broncos Wideout Demaryius Thomas before last year’s trade deadline. But, there will be no second season for Thomas in Houston, as he has been released. With Will Fuller back healthy, don’t expect the Texans to target wideouts in free agency. Houston would love to bring back both Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson, but that could prove difficult. Earl Thomas and Landon Collins are two big-ticket free agents that will be available.
Free Agents: Last year’s surprise team in the AFC has a ton of cap space and few free agents of note to re-sign. To further add to that point, WR Ryan Grant is the team’s highest paid free agent. He made exactly $5 million last season, and could come back to Indianapolis this offseason. He was useful, to say the least in 2018, catching 35 balls for 334 yards. But if the Colts choose to pursue other free agent wideouts, Grant may be forced to find a new NFL home.
Possible Targets: No team has more cap space than Indianapolis. The team’s $102 million should make them players in this year’s free agent pool. Indy has been linked to RB Le’Veon Bell, and should be willing to outbid any team for his services. If Bell is merely looking for the most money possible, the Colts could be his safest bet. The team has also been seeking another receiving option. After reportedly considering a trade for Antonio Brown, Indy is free to target receivers like Golden Tate and/or Tyrell Williams.
Free Agents: Much like the Colts, the Tennessee Titans won’t go crazy trying to retain their own free agents. Tennessee’s list includes the likes of Derrick Morgan, John Cyprien, Bennie Logan and Kenny Vaccaro. The Titans have more than $40 million in cap space, so this team could compete for big time free agent players with Indianapolis. One offseason removed from acquiring Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis, expect Tennessee to be just as active this time around.
Possible Targets: While this free agent crop of receivers isn’t necessarily exciting, it is deep on complimentary players. Williams and Tate are the two biggest prizes, but the emergence of Corey Davis means this team will not be looking for a number one wideout. Players like Cole Beasley, Adam Humphries or John Brown would give Marcus Mariota strong options outside of Davis come next September.
Free Agents: The Jacksonville Jaguars have close to $30 million in cap space, and a glaring need at the QB position. The combination of factors will likely lead to Nick Foles taking over under center, and Blake Bortles being sent on his way or relegated to a backup role. While QB will be the team’s focus in free agency, there are a few other holes that need to be filled following the release of Carlos Hyde and Malik Jackson. Hyde is gone, and T.J. Yeldon will test the market as well. Donte Moncrief and Austin Seferian-Jenkins have played their last games as Jaguars.
Possible Targets: With Foles expected to sign, the Jags will look to fill out the rest of their offensive roster. Bell is out of the picture since Leonard Fournette is there, as is Mark Ingram, the second-best back on the market. Look for the team to attempt to replace Yeldon’s role, either through free agency or the draft. At TE, Jesse James or Tyler Eifert would make sense. Could Jay Ajayi reunite with Nick Foles in Jacksonville’s backfield?
Check back for more NFL division previews as free agency approaches!